Author’s Introduction: In 2005 my father was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and in 2008 I spent two weeks with him at MD Anderson in Houston, staying at the Rotary House International Hotel attached to the cancer center. During this stay I began to awake to a deeper understanding of my father’s illness, in particular the very real threat it presented, my anger and fear towards the disease, and the important but limited role that health care could play. Through reflecting on this experience I have come to see health care, like art, as being defined by the attempt, the process of trying to attain without the ability to realize perfection. These poems weave together visions from the MD Anderson trip, scientific articles, and pieces of my family’s life after my father’s death two years later with a variety of images, memories, characters, and spirits. The poems often begin with scenes and people from MD Anderson, but the experiences they revolve around encompass visions beyond my direct relationship with cancer, science, and health care. I hope that through my art I can come to convey some of this emotion, this swirl, this rotary.
Rotary House Rotary Elephant in the Coal Mines Painted, She Wars Fluorescence With a dent in his head Photos of Jesus With 5 Feet of Air Baseball The Treatment Rotary Immunity Roast Folk art Discovery of a Parasite A Hematologists’ Conference Confirming an aggressive course Richter’s Syndrome Liver House Pictures
Nathaniel Vincent Mohatt is a postdoctoral fellow at Yale where he researches community arts in behavioral health services. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing and Community Psychology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an MFA in poetry from Saint Mary’s College of California. His dissertation portrays a family’s experience of cancer care through poetry and essay, while his research and professional work has largely been focused on Native American cultural psychology and health promotion. He is a co-founder of the Pirate Pig Press, a community arts promotion extravaganza based out of California. The intertwining of poetry and the arts with community well-being and cultural resiliency are at the root of his work both as a poet and a scientist. He was raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota and in Fairbanks Alaska, and he is married with two young daughters. He has been published in scientific and literary journals, including MiPOesias, Big Bridge, Jack Magazine, Camas, BorderSenses, and Literary House Review.
Acknowledgements: “Painted, She Wars” originally appeared in Literary House Review. “Folk Art,” “Pictures,” and “Fluorescence” originally appeared in MiPOesias. The cover image is reproduced from the article “Recent Advances in the Diagnosis and Therapy of Richter’s Syndrome” authored by Ronan Swords, John Bruzzi, and Francis Giles in the journal Medical Oncology, volume 24, number 1, pages 17-32, 2007.